Now that so many people own Macs, one has to wonder why the offering of business plan software for Mac is so scarce. Business Plan Pro by Palo Alto Software is by far the leading and most well-known business planning suite, but it’s only available for Windows. And as an owner and user of Business Plan Pro and an avid user of the Mac, I am still shaking my head at the fact that there is no Mac version, and that I’ve had to resort to using Parallels and Windows on the Mac just to access it and a few other rare applications still not available for Mac.
So what does that mean for Mac users who need business plan software for Mac?
OK. I’m sorry for presenting such a gloomy picture of the options available for the Mac. In reality, you do have options. For one, you can do what I’ve done, get a copy of Parallels, Windows and Business Plan Pro and settle on having to run Windows to work on your business plan. On the other hand, you can start paying attention to some of the newer offerings. They haven’t been designed for the Mac – but they free you from having to worry about whether you need Windows or Mac OS to write your business plan.
LivePlan helps you put together a neat package.
LivePlan is a new online version of Business Plan Pro. It essentially enables you to write your business plan from any computer, on any OS, and not have to worry about installing software. You simply sign up for an account, create a user name and password, and you’re off to the races. It has the same simple interface of Business Plan Pro, but with the added benefit of being able to share your plan online securely within your LivePlan account. You can setup users and grant them permission to collaborate on a business plan – or you can grant them view-only access. Of course, Business Plan Pro users can upload plans to their SecurePlan account and let their users access business plans. But in today’s world of collaboration, Business Plan Pro really can’t give you the same level of collaborative freedom that LivePlan can.
If you’re wondering how LivePlan compares to Business Plan Pro on a feature level, worry not. LivePlan has been continuously updated to be as comprehensive and feature-rich as Business Plan Pro. Automated financial calculations and charting make it easy to plug in your numbers and let LivePlan do the math for you. It costs $20 a month for a LivePlan account, but they do offer a 7-day free trial, so you have nothing to lose before you decide whether to take the plunge.
While I do believe LivePlan may suit most entrepreneur’s business planning needs, at least insofar as what a software application can offer, there is one other option I’d like to talk about. PlanHQ is an online business plan application with a focus on project and team management. This twist makes it quite a different alternative to LivePlan.
PlanHQ focuses you on what you need to get done.
You can think of PlanHQ as an ideal choice if your business planning needs are internal and your focus is on taking action on your goals. Having used both LivePlan and PlanHQ, my impression is that PlanHQ really is designed for small business owners and project managers who need to get things done and manage revenue and costs at the same time. It isn’t really designed for presenting to a bank or to potential investors. Not that doing so isn’t possible. It’s really all about plans that need to be executed rather than presented.
Now, that might be a good thing if your plan is in implementation mode. You can definitely collaborate and allocate tasks to your various users. You can also use it to share with investors. In fact, it’s an ideal solution for investors and VCs who want to monitor their portfolios since they can see the progress of tasks and achievements across various investments, all in a single account.
PlanHQ is also a great option for business coaches. As a coach, you can collaborate with your clients, setup goals, projects and tasks, and then monitor your client’s results.
If currently offers 3 plans, starting at $9 a month (suitable for many small businesses) and up to $49 per month, which is the unlimited version (suitable for investors/VCs and coaches, who need to manage several projects and tasks simultaneously).
While I found PlanHQ’s financial tables to be rather basic compared to what LivePlan offers, this just might be what the doctor ordered for people who don’t want to/need to get bogged down with detailed numbers.
LivePlan, on the other hand, gives you more options in forecasting financial data such as sales, expenses and cash flow, but doesn’t give you the vast project management and collaboration ability that PlanHQ does.
So it all comes down to what you really need. As long as you now realize that you don’t really need business plan software for Mac, LivePlan and PlanHQ are two really good options to consider as a Mac user.